For the latest Town of Hantsport news, be sure to read the Hants Journal.
Weeks prior to Hantsport Coun. Shannon Cunningham being required to step aside from town council due to living in Halifax, efforts began ramping up to find folks willing to fill his seat.
This month, the speculation ceased when Cunningham's term in municipal politics came to an end and council voted to hold a byelection. Two contenders have since announced their intentions to vie for the vacant council seat, and more could very well still step up for the chance to serve.
This is far from a routine municipal byelection. The timing couldn't be any more dramatic.
Council voted earlier this year to apply to the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board (NS UARB) for dissolution of their town charter. That process is well underway, with studies set to wrap up by Sept. 5, and several public meetings planned for this month.
Among the decisions council must make is which neighbouring municipality the Haven of Hospitality should merge with. That decision is due by Sept. 30. Hantsport can choose to become either a district of the Municipality of West Hants or Kings County, or they could become a village and join their neighbours. Once that decision is made, the final dissolution application hearing is expected to be held in January 2015.
However, that entire process could be halted depending on the outcome of the byelection.
One candidate is a member of Think Hantsport — a group openly lobbying for the Town of Hantsport to remain a town, or at least to examine every possible option available to them before calling it quits. The other candidate has stated his final decision will be based solely on facts and figures, not on emotion.
Depending on who else throws their hat into the ring, or even if anyone else decides to, Hantsport residents will be voting on more than just a new councillor. They will be voting on their future. There won't be a need for a plebiscite to see if the people are for or against dissolution. That will play out over the course of the byelection.
Dissolution, dropping to village status, remaining as a town — these are decisions that can't be made lightly.
This month, there are a number of meetings that folks can attend to gain a better understanding of what is being proposed. There will be two meetings in Kings County (likely Hants Border or Lockhartville) on Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, two in West Hants on Aug. 19 and Aug. 26, and two in Hantsport on Aug. 12 and Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at the fire hall.
Hantsport has a lot going for it. Chief among the town's assets are its people — the community spirit. The best thing residents can do is get informed. Attend as many public meetings as possible. Ask questions of your elected representatives and those looking to represent you. Don't be afraid to dig for answers.
As the clock ticks down to the fall byelection, one thing is certain: this vote is going to be one to watch.